When to go: The Antarctica travel season runs from early November through May. The weather is clearest early in the season. Still, about half of the excursions on my first-of-the-season sailing were curtailed or canceled due to snow and wind. Early sailings also coincide with mating season, when animals gather and court. The shoreline is also more pristine since landing sites haven't been trampled yet by human and penguin feet. Mid- and late-season sailings offer (relatively) warmer weather and less ice and snow. Later departures also feature the arrival of penguin chicks and higher concentrations of whales and fur seals.

Getting to port: Most ships to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, Argentina -- the southernmost city in the world. We flew there on LAN Airlines (www.lan.com/en_us/sitio_personas/index.html).

Dealing with the Drake: While there is anecdotal evidence of something dreamily referred to as "Drake Lake," most two- to three-day crossings of the Drake Passage (done both leaving and returning to Ushuaia) are more often like surfboarding in a washing machine. The doctor aboard the M/V Antarctic Dream was on hand to dispense seasickness pills. Holistic remedies include ginger gum (ginger is a noted natural nausea depressant) and Sea-Bands, which put pressure on the P6 (Nei-Kuan) acupressure point in your wrist and are said to relieve nausea (pregnant women swear by them).

More information:

• M/V Antarctic Dream, www.antarctic.cl/web_eng

• GAP Adventures, www.gapadventures.com